Abstraktes Bild (682-4)

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Jean Bernier, Athens
    Farideh Cadot Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, 7 February 2003, lot 182
    Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
    Private Collection

  • Literature

    Dietmar Elger, Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 4: 1988-1994, Ostfildern, 2015, no. 682-4, p. 192 (illustrated)

  • Video

    Gerhard Richter ‘Abstraktes Bild (682-4)’, 1988

    Originating from the heart of Richter’s inquiry into the transcendence of painterly abstraction, which began in 1976, Abstraktes Bild (682-4), 1988, displays a supreme chromatic complexity, offering an illustriously hypnotic field of luminous painterly pigment.

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present work perfectly reflects Gerhard Richter’s lifelong scrutiny of painting. Sublime accents of erupting red flood Abstraktes Bild (682-4), as rivers of molten paint cascade across the canvas, veiling the milky indiscernible figurative stratum. Electric sheens of dragged colours convalesce in a symphony of exquisite tonality. Hints of vermilion and enunciations of acidic yellow culminate as brilliant bright white punctuations create a profound sense of depth and pictorial intensity. A painting that is equally harmonious and in disarray, the kaleidoscopic incandescence of the palette results in a visually arresting canvas that is utterly mesmerising. Questioning the nature of vision, Richter’s textural topography chaotically shifts our perspective, resulting in pure stimulation of the senses. His opus, retroactively analogous with Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field painting, prompts Richter to fall alongside the gestural titans of the twentieth century. However, Richter’s post-conceptual paintings encapsulate a critical and reflective relationship to the historical transformation of the very concept of painting itself.

    Possessing an aesthetic authority of the very highest calibre, Abstraktes Bild (682-4) is a magisterial manifestation of Richter’s celebrated oeuvre. Originating from the heart of Richter’s inquiry into the transcendence of painterly abstraction, which began in 1976, Abstraktes Bild (682-4), 1988, displays a supreme chromatic complexity, offering an illustriously hypnotic field of luminous painterly pigment. Richter painted a series of three canvases in succession, each executed in 1988 and measuring 72 x 62 cm. Like the present work, Abstraktes Bild (682-2) and Abstraktes Bild (682-3) favour a saturated coating of scarlet over a blurred, possibly figurative backdrop. The same year that the trio was conceived, Richter held seminal shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Tokyo. Following this, Richter embarked on major solo exhibitions in 1989 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, soon receiving the Wolf Prize in Arts in 1994.

    Richter’s prolifically sustained philosophical enquiry into the medium of painting sought to redefine the foundations of our contemporary visual language. Copying large-scale photographic projections of smaller abstract works, Richter’s early abstracts emerged in the wake of his brief return to expressionist forms of painterly practice. By the late 1980s Richter had begun to produce his gestural yet controlled aesthetic of abstract painting. Obliterating his relationship to the process of photographic modelling, Richter fashioned a long wooden ruler, utilised to scrape thick masses of paint across the surface of the canvas in a series of geological layers. Through the thick and vivid application of paint Richter moved on from his photo realist experimentations and released his grasp on the controlled nature of his painting. ‘With a brush you have control. The paint goes on the brush and you make the mark. From experience you know exactly what will happen. With the squeegee you lose control. Not all control, but some control. It depends on the angle, the pressure and the particular paint I am using’ (Conversation between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota, 'I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying it', Spring 2011, online). Relieving himself of the fetters of traditional painterly techniques, Richter instead favoured his acclaimed squeegee and brush technique, establishing his renowned and iconic means of artistic production. Commenting on his process, Richter asserts, ‘I want to end up with a picture that I haven't planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture...I just want to get something more interesting out of it than those things I can think out for myself’ (Gerhard Richter interviewed in 1990, in Hubertus Butin and Stefan Gronert, eds., Gerhard Richter. Editions 1965-2004: Catalogue Raisonné, Ostfildern, 2004, p. 36). Staging similarities to J.M.W. Turner’s infamous scumbling technique, Richter’s method results is a quasi-photographic, mechanical yet nonetheless painterly opticality, achieved by a tireless procedure of addition and reduction.

    Captivating and ceaselessly engaging, Abstraktes Bild (682-4) interrogates the limits of representation and the very nature of perception. Reinventing the boundaries of painting, the present work reaffirms Richter’s rank as one of the world’s greatest living artists. As Glenn D. Lowery has noted, ‘No other artist has placed more intriguing and rigorous demands upon specialists, interpreters, followers and average viewers alike – nor upon himself… In Richter’s work there is a demonstration of the ways in which painting’s resources are constantly replenished by the very problems it seems to pose, both for the painter and the viewer. Nobody in our own time has posed them better or solved them more inventively than Richter’ (Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002, p. 7).

  • Artist Bio

    Gerhard Richter

    German • 1932

    Powerhouse painter Gerhard Richter has been a key player in defining the formal and ideological agenda for painting in contemporary art. His instantaneously recognizable canvases literally and figuratively blur the lines of representation and abstraction. Uninterested in classification, Richter skates between unorthodoxy and realism, much to the delight of institutions and the market alike. 

    Richter's color palette of potent hues is all substance and "no style," in the artist's own words. From career start in 1962, Richter developed both his photorealist and abstracted languages side-by-side, producing voraciously and evolving his artistic style in short intervals. Richter's illusory paintings find themselves on the walls of the world's most revered museums—for instance, London’s Tate Modern displays the Cage (1) – (6), 2006 paintings that were named after experimental composer John Cage and that inspired the balletic 'Rambert Event' hosted by Phillips Berkeley Square in 2016. 

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Abstraktes Bild (682-4)

signed, numbered and dated 'Richter 682-4 1988' on the reverse
oil on canvas
72.5 x 62.2 cm (28 1/2 x 24 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1988.

£2,200,000 - 2,800,000 ‡ ♠

sold for £2,389,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 hhighley@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017